Midnight Releasing // 2010 // 100 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // May 12th, 2013
A comedic social satire about one man's journey off of drugs.
For the past decade or so zombies have been the go-to horror monster for all kinds of filmmakers. While vampires tend to get all the box-office love (see the Twilight franchise) zombies have been grist for low-budget mills. Offering everything from post-apocalyptic frights to satiric objects of fun, zombies seem to be everywhere. That trend continues with All American Zombie Drugs, a low budget comedy flick with some zombie elements. Though the production wins points for looking good, the various pieces never cohere into a solid whole.
A pair of stoners decide to pool their resources to get into dealing. When they get burned they must concoct their own drug to make back their money. Meanwhile, one of the pair is seeing zombies and the ghost of his dead brother.
As an example of indie filmmaking, All American Zombie Drugs is admirable. For a price that would get a nice car but probably wouldn't cover he catering budget for half a typical Hollywood production the film conjures a complete world of suburban burnout, complete with solid acting, good cinematography, and an especially impressive attention to the use of music. All of these elements put Zombie Drugs above the average indie-flick.
Which leads me to be sympathetic towards the film -- it gets a solid A for effort. However, I have to question for whom the film is intended. The plot is an equal mix of stoner-shenanigans, horror-comedy, and indie-drama. That sounds like it could be a potent soup of influences, but in execution (no matter how slick), I'm left feeling like the movie never really hits any of its targets.
The stoner aspects of the movie work least well. Stuff is funny when you're high, but it takes a true master of comedy to make stoner-shenanigans funny if viewers are straight (see, for instance, Half Baked). It's obvious that the actors are having a fun time, and they do a good job giving the impression that they're high all the time, but like most stoned people in real life, they're kind of interminable if you're not high with them. The "stoners dream of making it big by becoming dealers" plot kind of works and is an interesting choice for this kind of film, but the "humor" never quite works.
The film is also not particularly horror-oriented. Yes there are some zombies in the film, but they're largely presented as a figment of the protagonist's imagination. They get a few laughs, a few jump scares, but ultimately it's a huge stretch to call this a zombie movie. Fans of the genre who go into All American Zombie Drugs looking for lots of zombie time are going to be brutally disappointed. Those looking for a slightly more non-traditional zombie film might be pleased though, and having zombies as hallucinations to convey mental states is an intriguing idea.
Finally, the film is also trying very hard to be a drama as well. Both the zombies and the drugs are ultimately metaphors for addiction, loss, and guilt. These feelings are embodied by the main character, and the film slowly morphs from a buddy-stoner-comedy into something darker about half-way through the film.
I'm not kidding when I say that All American Zombie Drugs looks 100 times better than its budget. Luckily, that high production value is showcased well on this DVD's 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer. The bright, colorful look to the film is the most noticeable aspect of the visuals, and the level of detail is impressive for an indie DVD. Color saturation is accurate as well, and black levels stay consistent and deep. No compression artifacts are present to mess with the look either. The DTS 5.1 Surround track also hits pretty hard. Dialogue is clean and clear, and the use of music on the soundtrack is full but well-balanced. Directionality is pretty impressive as well, especially during some of the zombie-fied moments.
Extras kick off with a commentary featuring the director and star Beau Nelson with producer Alex Berezovsky. The group are chatty throughout, offering lots of behind the scenes stories as well as their take on the deeper significance of the material. There's also a collection of behind the scenes videos that show the shoot happening.
All American Zombie Drugs is a movie that should find an audience. It's got a bit of humor, a bit of pathos, and a bit of zombie all working for it. The fact that it's probably not funny enough to be a comedic success, too funny to be a good drama, and doesn't have enough zombies to make it a successful zombie horror flick doesn't do the film any favors. However, that does mean that there's an adventurous group of viewers out there who will appreciate the weird mix of genres and sensibilities.
I wanted to love All American Zombie Movies. As a fan of indie comedy and indie horror, it seemed the film was right up my alley. However, as much as I admire the strong production value and effort that went into making the film look this good, ultimately the film tries to do too much without hitting enough targets. It's worth a rental to viewers looking for something really new in their zombie comedy/drama genre, and with a solid DVD like this one it's easy to recommend for rental.
Not guilty, but certainly not for everybody.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Midnight Releasing
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* DTS 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated